Religious Affairs Director Mehmet Görmez has misled public opinion on abortion and acted as a spokesperson for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, according to Koray Çalışkan, a columnist at the daily Radikal and a political scientist at Istanbul's Bosphorus University.
"Görmez said a fertilized egg amounts to a human being based on definitive evidence [obtained] by men of science. The usage is wrong, for one. That is called a 'scientist' and not a 'man of science.' Moreover, what he said is scientifically false. He is deceiving the public," Çalışkan told bianet.
Çalışkan also castigated Religious Affairs Director Görmez for a comment he had earlier made in response to a call raised by opposition People's Republican Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
"It is saddening that our [directorate] has been turned into a subject matter for mundane politics and received an invitation that would pave the way for its involvement," Görmez had said on April 18, about 1.5 months prior to his remarks against abortion.
This time around, Görmez expressed no opposition to involvement in politics and proceeded to refer to abortion as "murder," Çalışkan said.
"The prime minister told the Religious Affairs to state its opinion as if asking for a 'fatwa' (religious decree,) and the Religious Affairs issued a statement [in consequence.] He fulfilled the prime minister's request whose civil servant he is," Çalışkan added.
Islamic scholars are also divided on the issue, he said, adding that writer İhsan Eliaçık had declared abortion to be permissible within the first 120 days following pregnancy, for instance.
The Religious Affairs Directorate enjoys a thriving budget of 3 billion Turkish Liras, or about three times more than what the Ministry of Foreign Affairs receives, Çalışkan explained.
"It is of no significance to what degree the statements delivered by the Religious Affairs Directorate are accurate. What does count is that it is getting involved in political matters that it has no business in and that it is doing this with our money. This is a political issue. He ought not to come out saying he is speaking on behalf of religion," Çalışkan said.
"Not merely a women's issue"
Mehmet Görmez had said on Monday that pregnant mothers had no right to claim they could avoid giving birth to a baby on the grounds that it was their bodies in question.
"It is religiously permissible to take preventive measures to avoid pregnancy through the mutual consent of the husband and the wife in cases where they do not want to have children. Abortion is murder and religiously impermissible. [Intentional] miscarriages and abortion do not count as preventive measures. Aborting a child amounts to murder," Görmez had said.
He had also underlined the fact that the Religious Affairs Directorate had allowed for abortion with only a single member voting against over the question of whether women raped in Bosnia in 1993 could undergo the surgical operation.
"All sciences, and not just Islam, will continue saying that abortion is equal to ending a life. A baby in a mother's womb has the right to life. It is unfair to see the problem of abortion as merely a women's issue," he had said. (AS)